Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pruning Raspberries

Fresh from the vine, baked in a pie, made into jam, or tossed into a salad, I have always loved raspberries. My father maintained acres of raspberries on our farm when I was a young child, and as part of our chores, my siblings and I were in those fields helping out. Weeding between the rows, pruning out the old vines, tying up the plants, picking the berries, my father taught us how to maintain raspberries. Fast forward many years, now I have my own stand of raspberries. These are berries picked last year. Established a few years ago from small starts sprouting around the raspberry patch in the garden on Orcas Island, the raspberries in my garden now are a favorite. Sometimes referred to as the ever bearing type of raspberries, they really aren’t ever bearing because they have two harvests each season. The first harvest is from mid summer to late, and the second harvest starts in late summer and ends in the fall. With the summer harvest on vines grown last year, and the fall harvest on new vines from the current season, the two harvests often over lap, giving the impression of "ever bearing".Since it is only the new vines of the current season and vines from the previous season that bear fruit, in order to keep raspberry plants healthy and producing their best, any vines older than that need to be pruned out. It is very easy to recognize which are the older vines as even in the early spring when the vines are still a bit dormant, they look older. They are gray, appear brittle and have peeling bark. To prune, simply cut those old vines off as close to the base of the plant as possible. Also, cutting back any obvious winter damage seen on the vines from last year will help those vines produce even more berries during the summer season. Always wear good gloves when pruning raspberries because their vines are protected by thousands of prickly thorns. Each year I about double the size of my raspberry patch. After pruning, I dig up the new little plants that sprout each spring and transplant them into a more organized section. This year, the bed next to the raspberries that was filled with sweet peas, hollyhocks and snapdragons last year, is now filled with raspberry starts - and those lovely hollyhocks, moved to a different area of my garden.

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